Leading British Covid-19 experts have joined the likes of James Bond, Tony Blair and Emma Raducanu in receiving awards in the Queen’s New Year’s honors list.
England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty and deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam are to be knighted for their contributions during the pandemic. Dr. Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, and Dr. June Raine – head of the UK’s medicines regulator (MHRA) – will both be made dames.
James Bond star Daniel Craig was also recognized, receiving a Companion in The Order of St Michael and St George (CMG), the same title possessed by his character, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to film. The actor reprised his rendition of the British spy five times, marking his final performance in the 25th film in the franchise, “No Time To Die,” released this year.
The New Year’s honors list is published by the UK’s Cabinet Office and recognizes British people for excellence in a spectrum of pursuits, ranging from arts and athletics to science and politics. The list is published biannually, once at New Year’s, and then again for the Queen’s birthday.
Tony Blair, the former UK prime minister, is to be knighted with the highest possible ranking. Blair, who was prime minister from 1997-2007, will be appointed a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter – the oldest and most senior British Order of Chivalry.
“It is an immense honour to be appointed Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, and I am deeply grateful to Her Majesty the Queen,” Blair said in a tweet posted by the Tony Blair Institute.
The appointment, which is made by the Queen, has regularly been bestowed upon previous prime ministers, according to the UK Press Association (PA). John Major, Blair’s predecessor, was the last to receive the honor, PA reported.
In sport, the Olympic gold medalist Tom Daley, is appointed OBE for services to “diving, LGBTQ+ rights and charity.”
In December 2013, Daley came out on YouTube, and almost eight years later, the Briton is proud of the LGBTQ representation he witnessed at this year’s Tokyo Games.
“When I was a little boy, I felt like an outsider, and felt different, and I felt like I was never going to be anything, because who I was, wasn’t what society wanted me to be,” he said this summer.
“And to be able to see out LGBT people performing at the Olympic Games, I hope (that) can give young kids hope and not feel so frightened and scared and alone, and to be able to see that no matter who you are, where you come from, you can become an Olympic champion, because I did,” he said.
Daly’s diving partner and fellow gold medallist, Matty Lee, receives an MBE.
The teenage tennis star Emma Raducanu, who Queen Elizabeth II praised as “outstanding” after her US Open victory in September, is to be awarded an MBE.
Spice Girls member Melanie “Mel B” Brown receives an MBE for her work with charity Women’s Aid, which supports survivors of domestic abuse. “I feel I’m accepting this award on behalf of all women who have gone through – or going through – abuse in all its shapes and forms,” she said, according to a Women’s Aid press release.
Grammy-nominated songwriter Bernie Taupin receives a CBE for his exceptional services to music. Best known for his artistic collaboration with Elton John, Taupin co-wrote several of John’s hits including “Tiny Dancer,” “Your Song” and “I’m Still Standing.” The songwriting duo won an Oscar in 2020 for best song “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” in “Rocketman.”
Other celebrities on the list include award-winning actress Vanessa Redgrave, who receives a CBE, and “Absolutely Famous” star Joanna Lumley, who was made a dame.
In total, 1,122 people made the New Year’s list.
The honors system, explained
Although knights and dames may be the most well-known commendations, there’s a hierarchy of ranks in the honors system, according to the UK government.
At the highest level is the Companion of Honor, awarded to those who’ve made major contributions in the arts, science, medicine, or government over an extended period of time.
Next, the distinction of being a knight or dame is conferred on those who’ve made long-term national contributions seen as inspirational or significant.
The Commander of the Order of the British Empire, or CBE, is for those who’ve played a “prominent but lesser role at the national level, or a leading role at the regional level,” according to the government.
The Officer of the Order of the British Empire, or OBE, is for those who’ve taken a major role in local activities, and through it come become known nationally in their chosen area.
The Member of the Order of the British Empire, or MBE, is for outstanding achievement or service to one’s community.
Finally, the British Empire Medal, or BEM, is for those who’ve done “hands-on” service for their local community, including voluntary activity or innovation work.